Q. We would like to know how to handle an annoyance caused by a friend. This woman will not allow anyone in her living room or dining room for any entertaining -- to the point of having a fence in the doorways.
These are not rooms with priceless antiques, and it is not a matter of unruly people or messy children.
My husband feels so insulted by it that I think he will probably scale the fence and sit in the room alone, just as a matter of principle.
We are met at the front door, walked down the hallway to the kitchen, and ushered to the family room. This has happened for weddings, funerals, Christmas, graduations, showers and other occasions. The gates are explained as being barriers for the dogs, but the animals are usually kenneled when company is there.
Is there some polite way we can make her aware of her rudeness? We realize she has the standard white carpet, but no one has manure on their feet or bib overalls from the barn.
A. If you were the only people banned from these sacred parlors, Miss Manners could understand how you could take offense. She would not permit you to occupy the territory by force, but she would acknowledge that you might not care to be entertained by someone who did not consider you worthy of her best.
But what you have here is -- how can Miss Manners put it politely? -- a nut case. None of this lady's friends seems to be worthy enough to use her best rooms, and no occasions -- weddings, funerals -- important enough. What is she waiting for?
Miss Manners recalls reading a short story about a similarly afflicted lady who was saving her best for an occasion so special that it never arrived in her lifetime. That lady was guarding the bed linens from her trousseau for a sufficiently important occasion, her own wedding apparently not qualifying. Finally, she was no longer able to protect the now disintegrating sheets, and they were used as her shroud.
There seems to be a moral here about enjoying things while you can, and sharing them with people you care about. There is no way for you to "handle" someone else's peculiarity, except to share Miss Manners' hope that your friend allows herself to tiptoe into the rooms when no one else is around, and to eke what pleasure she can out of having white rugs.
Q. My dear mother has been so lavish in her generosity and hospitality that I am overwhelmed.
She sent three lovely presents -- in honor of my graduation, my wedding anniversary and a performance I gave -- all within one week. I had plans to visit her the next week, and during the time I stayed with her she also gave a party for me, presented me with another graduation gift, bought me clothing and took me out to dinner.
A single list-style thank-you letter strikes me as insufficient, but sending seven notes at once seems absurd. What would be the most thoughtful response?
Also I worry because I know this charming lady has a fixed income. Do good manners ever permit children to tell their parents that less lavish celebrations would be equally delightful? Repeating "Oh, you shouldn't have" to my enthusiastic mother sounds hollow and ungrateful.
A. Such a splendid burst of generosity -- Miss Manners trusts that your mother neither impoverished herself by doing this all your life, nor plans to keep it up -- should not be dampened. Yes, you owe her more than one regular thank-you letter, but no, you don't owe her more letters.
There should be one overwhelming letter, filled with gratitude for everything she has done for you, including but not limited to the recent presents.
As for the rest, your indebtedness must be met by showing that you follow her kind example. If your mother is in limited circumstances, surely there are many things you can do for her. Miss Manners is not talking about immediately returning presents, but about keeping an eye out for whatever might help or please your mother, always.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.